Kolkata: It isn’t just Subhas Chandra Bose’s death that is mired in mystery but several other aspects of his life are also enveloped in a haze.
Days before Netaji’s 119th birth anniversary on January 23, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to declassify some documents on the freedom fighter, a section of the Bose family, Netaji followers and researchers have urged the PM to also disclose documents related to German citizen Emilie Schenkl and her daughter Anita Pfaff to authenticate the claim that they were his wife and daughter.
At a press conference in Kolkata on Monday, researchers pointed to discrepancies in the appearance of Emilie Schenkl, the year of marriage to Netaji and how his letter dislosing the marraige and birth of a child reached the Bose family. “In the book, ‘Netajir Sahadharmini’ published in the late 1960s, author Sekhar Bose mentions the date of marriage as 1941. But in a case against Jayasree Prakashan, Netaji’s nephew Sisir Bose stated in his affidavit submitted to Calcutta high court in 1977 that Bose married Emilie in 1942. Again, in the book ‘Brothers Against the Raj’ published in the late 1980s, author Leonard Gordon says the marriage took place in 1941. Finally, in the editors’ introduction to volume 7 of Netaji’s collected works, Sisir and his son Sugata Bose wrote the wedding was on December 29, 1937. Which is true? Or is it a fabrication as part of the Nehru-Mountabatten conspiracy against Netaji?” said thorasic surgeon Madhusudan Pal who is also a Netaji researcher. Pal had deposed before the Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry.
The mystery over the marriage gets further confounded by conflicting accounts on how the Bose family learnt it. Netaji’s niece Roma stated that Emilie handed the letter to Subhas’ elder brother, Sarat, at Vienna airport during his Europe trip in 1949. The letter in Bengali, addressed to Sarat Bose, did not mention Emilie or Anita. Roma’s sister Geeta later claimed the letter had arrived by post at the Elgin Road residence. In yet another version, Sisir Bose wrote that the letter was found in a cigar box.
What is even more intriguing, says Pal, is a letter that Sisir Bose wrote to his cousin, Aurobindo, from Berlin on January 17, 1953, stating that he had asked his friends in Berlin and Vienna to look for “aunty’s marriage certificate and Anita’s birth certificate”. The letter that had been copied by intelligence officials during the snooping on Bose residences in the 1950s and 1960s was, along with other classified documents on Netaji, released by CM Mamata Banerjee last year. “What was the need for clandestine search of these documents?” he wondered.
Netaji’s kin Rajyashree Chaudhuri has questioned the photographs of three women who have been identified as Fr Emilie Schenkl in 1935, 1936 and 1937. “There is no resemblance between the woman photographed at Karlsbad in 1935 and that at Bagadstein in 1937. Which of this is the real Emilie Schenkl?” she said. The photographs were published in books by Netaji’s nephew A K Bose and Sisir Bose.
Netaji researcher Jayanto Choudhuri wondered if Emilie and Anita were characters in the conspiracy to force Netaji into hiding. “If Netaji emerged, who better to identify and give testimony against the ‘war criminal’ than a wife and child?” he said, adding there were records of remittance of Rs 6,000 a year from the government to Anita in ’50s.